Keys Hall belongs to local people

May 13, 2009 12:00 AM
By Jill Hubbard in Brentwood Gazette
Keys Hall

Keys Hall

The Conservative administration of Brentwood council has pretended for years that Keys Hall is "surplus to requirements", so it came as no surprise to me that Mr Maza's efforts to save it (Gazette, 29 April) fell on deaf ears.

The council's refusal to listen to the people of Brentwood and, in particular, Warley is outrageous and deeply upsetting.

The hall was left to the local community by the Essex Regiment when it pulled out of Warley.

It has been well-used ever since. The only reason the council refuses to acknowledge this truth is that they can make more money by selling the building for property development than by continuing to manage it for community use of by selling it to someone who is well intentioned in the matter, such as Mr Maza appears to be.

Long before Mr Maza made efforts to save the hall the Royal British Legion Youth Band and 1st Warley Boys' Brigade were in negotiations to take it over but were fobbed off.

Various faith groups have also tried and been ignored. While I was a Liberal Democrat Councillor for Warley, other groups approached me wanting to continue booking Keys Hall.

These included the Mother and Toddler Group, Jenny's Gems Ballroom Dancing, Holdens Archers, the SADS Trust, a stage school, a martial arts club and a badminton group.

All of these groups wanted to use the hall because of its size - it's the largest of our community halls and the height of its ceiling. Its beautiful floor and attractive lighting also make it ideal for larger groups which are well able to make use of the facilities offered.

In recent years fewer groups have booked the venue because they have been actively discouraged from doing so and the hall has been deliberately not advertised or promoted for use.

It is on this basis that the council pretend it is "surplus to requirements".

The council has also deliberately not carried out much needed refurbishments in order to dissuade local groups from using it.

The Tory council argument that Nightingale Hall is an adequate replacement for Keys Hall does not hold water.

It is probably a quarter of the size of Keys Hall for one thing. Also, while it is a wonderful facility for the huge new community at Clements Park, it should not be given to them at the expense of the longer established residents of Warley who have for so long enjoyed the use of the facilities provided.

I am angry that despite promises to protect Keys Hall, I have seen no evidence that the Tory councillors for Warley have done anything to stop this crown in the family jewels from being sold off for development, to the detriment of the local community that has enjoyed its facilities for so long.

This proposal is simply intended to fill the council's coffers at the expense of the community to whom the hall was originally "bequeathed" by the Essex Regiment and who intended the people to benefit when they bestowed it.

Jill Hubbard

Warley Lib Dem Councillor

2002 to 2007